Jordan Lockaby, Project Manager for the Dean of Admissions, writes from Berklee’s Gracenotes trip in New Orleans.

One week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast with winds up to 175 miles per hour President Barack Obama addressed our horrified nation.


“In the coming weeks, as the images of the immediate crisis fade and this chamber becomes consumed with other matters, we will be hearing a lot about lessons learned and steps to be taken… Once we stabilize the situation, this country will face an enormous challenge in providing stability for displaced families over the months and years that it will take to rebuild.”

This autumn marks ten years since the hurricane took almost 2,000 lives, and there is still work to be done to repair New Orleans.

Last week I was honored to represent the Gracenotes Volunteer Committee from Berklee to help with the ongoing revitalization efforts.  We partnered with Habitat for Humanity whose New Orleans chapter is currently working on a host of sites in the neighborhood of New Orleans East.  This neighborhood, like so many others in the city, is sprinkled with abandoned lots that today are filled with tall grass; the only thing to return since being completely demolished a decade ago.  Amongst the empty lots are some houses that have been abandoned. For many families it wasn’t worth it to rebuild so they left their homes to begin anew elsewhere.

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This photo shows one of many houses bearing the markings of FEMA’s search and rescue efforts. The top left section of the grid is the short hand for the inspection Task Force, the top right section is the date and time of the inspection: September 18th at 11:45. The bottom two numbers are zeros; the number of injured and the number of dead found inside.

For the first half of the week, the majority of the work our team did was hard physical labor. We spent hours shoveling deep layers of dried clay from the sidewalks and streets. This was not the more glamorous task of erecting walls or planting flower beds like I’d imagined I spoke with a venerable woman of the neighborhood while on her morning walk one day in the midst of our strenuous sidewalk clean up. She explained to me that FEMA had offered her $54,000 (of the $92,000 worth of damage) for the repair of her home. Habitat rebuilt her home when she could not afford to, and she was a proud and thankful recipient. The grueling sidewalk shoveling to me now seemed so appreciated, invaluable even, when she expressed her deep gratitude for the work that had been and continues to be done in her neighborhood. As she walked away she sweetly told me, “Ain’t nobody sent y’all here but God.”